A number of CMCs combined last week to launch the Association of Professional Claims Managers (APCM) to “increase the professionalism and levels of service provided by regulated claims management companies“.  While cynics will query the use of the term ‘professional’ and the possibly self-serving business motives of its members, I applaud the stated aims of the APCM and the introduction of its ‘Claims Management Code’.

The APCM’s Code includes high level principles requiring members to treat customers fairly and act responsibly and to conduct their business with honesty, fairness and transparency.  It sets out claims handling rules including specific prohibitions on “enquiry – style” claims (aimed at circumventing the CMC’s responsibility to establish the veracity, and state the particulars, of a claim) and issuing blanket or template letters.  These rules answer directly some of the financial services sector’s most familiar complaints about CMCs and the Code must therefore be welcomed in this respect.  In fact, the Code’s rules go beyond what is required of complainants.  The regulations and guidance applicable to respondent firms require them to deal with a complaint no matter how it is phrased and consider issues even if they have not expressly been raised by the complainant or their representative (DISP 1.4).

One of the Association’s stated objectives is to provide an independent arbitration service to deal with complaints “from consumers and other parties“. Despite the suggestion ‘other parties’ might be able to complain, the section of the Code on “customer service and complaints” refers to the MoJ Complaints Handling Rules and (like those rules) is geared towards complaints only by the CMC’s customer.  Firms aggrieved by the conduct of a CMC bringing a claim against them can at least refer the matter to the FOS or FSA under the MoUs in place with the Claims Management Regulator.

Even though the motive of APCM members is more likely to be business development than professionalism for its own sake (whatever that term means these days), the Association should be welcomed as a positive step towards higher standards and ethics in the handling of financial services complaints.